Jobs of the Future

Alan Kay one of my mentors at Apple during the 1990’s was well-known for saying the best way to predict the future is to invent it…..

President James Mellinchamp (Piedmont College, Georgia) just sent me this nice list of 55 jobs of the future, by Futurist Thomas Frey:

What I especially like about the list is it has different sections – Jobs Before 2020 (1-26), The Dismantlers (27-32), and Jobs After 2030 and Beyond (33-55).

Jobs Before 2020: Augmented Reality Architects, Alternative Currency Bankers, Seed Capitalists, Global System Architects, Locationists, Waste Data Manager, Urban Agriculturalists, Business Colony Managers, Competition Producers, Avatar Designers, Avatar Relationship Managers, 3D Printing Engineers, 3D Food-Printer Engineers, Book-to-App Converters, Social Education Specialists, Privacy Managers, Wind Turbine Repair Techs, Data Hostage Specialists, Smart Dust Programmers, Personality Services, Smart Contact Developers, Nano-Medics, New Science Philosopher-Ethicists, Organ Agents, Octogenarian Service Providers, Elevated Tube Transport Engineers

The Dismantlers: Prison System Dismantlers, Hospital and Healthcare Dismantlers, Income Tax System Dismantlers, Government Agency Dismantlers, Education System Dismantlers, College and University Dismantlers

Jobs in 2030 and Beyond: Drone Dispatchers,  Brain Quants, Tree-Jackers, Plant Psychologists, Extinction Revivalists, Robotic Earthworm Drivers, Gravity Pullers, Time Hackers, Clone Ranchers, Body Part & Limb Makers, Memory Augmentation Therapists, Time Brokers – Time Bank Traders,  Space-Based Power System Designers, Geoengineers – Weather Control Specialists, Plant Educators, Nano-Weapons Specialists, Lip Designers, Mass Energy Storage Developers, Earthquake Forecasters , “Heavy Air” Engineers,  Robot Polishers, Amnesia Surgeons,  Executioners for Virus-Builders

Some of my favorites bolded above – and I would like to add “Better Innovation Namers” to the list of Jobs Before 2020.   Much needed job for sure.

My own predictions are show on slide #11 here in this presentation:

The summary of my predictions is that by 2025 a big job will begin to be helping people to use their cognitive assistants to be better professionals, such as doctors and lawyers – healthier-people helpers, and more-just-society helpers.  By 2035 a big job will begin to be helping people to use their cognitive mediators to launch multiple startup companies.   By 2055 a big job will begin to be helping people to use their cognitive mediators to manage better their every growing digital workforce of about 100 digital workers per 1 biological person.  Of course, the best way to predict the future is to inspire the next generation to build it better.  This “build it better” will shift and become rapidly rebuilding from scratch for a number of reasons.  To get a hint of why this is so, check out this Circular Economy: From Consumer to User video that speaks to products becoming service offerings:

Here is one last perspective on jobs of the future from Andrew McAfee (MIT) in a nice podcast interview from the economist – speech recognition from a free iPhone app translated some key sections for me below…

Babbage: The automation game
How quickly will robots disrupt global industries and what will the implications be?
We explore with economist Andrew McAfee at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

[7:00] Automation vs Transformation: A clear distinction?

No, it is really not a clear distinction, because technology always does two things simultaneously: it substitutes for people, and the tasks that they do, and at the same time it’s a compliment, it’s an aid for people on the tasks that they do; sometimes even within the same job.  My exhibit A for that is bank tellers and if you remember back as soon as ATM machines came out we hear again that litany of prediction that bank tellers were about to become an endangered species, and if you look at what actually happened the number of bank tellers, in America at least, rose fairly steadily for decades because banks opened up more branches and we actually needed those tellers to do a different set of things but we still really needed those people.  We hit peak bank teller in America about a decade ago and as far as we can tell the total number of bank tellers in America has dropped by about 20% since that peak and that’s not because of one particular tech breakthrough, it’s because of a combination of ATM machines, PC banking, smartphone based banking, electronic payment systems, the technology progress is cumulative and eventually it can turn net complementing jobs into net substituting of jobs.

[9:00] Offshoring vs Automation:

America remains a manufacturing powerhouse, if you look at output.  We are second to China now, but we turn our more manufactured goods than Germany, Italy, France and India combined, and output goes up almost every non-recession year.   Now the year of peak American employment in manufacturing was 1979, and we are down a significant amount of total jobs since then.  That is not a globalization story, that is a technology story and an automation story. Tom you bring up the excellent point that we don’t see this recent amazing technology surge in the productivity statistics yet. I think that’s to be expected, if people are leaving relatively high productivity manufacturing jobs and moving into relatively low productivity service sector jobs. You would expect to see productivity as we measure it go down then.

Now what I anticipate happening is that we’re going to see a boost in service sector productivity thanks to things like excellent speech and voice recognition systems.  The ability of the new technologies to scan huge amounts of pretty unstructured information and generate a pretty clean insightful report out of that.  I think we also need to include in this discussion the overall greater material prosperity and abundance, because of tech progress, is good news.  Now job loss and wage stagnation are real concerns, and I think we see with things like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump what can happen when people feel left behind by the progress that’s going on. So I don’t mean to minimize those concerns at all, but we need to keep in mind we’re creating an overall more prosperous world.  The pressing question for us is how we share that prosperity.

[11:00] What we have to look forward to

Think about a near future where the elderly, and the disabled, and the blind can get around much more easily than they can now.  Think about a future where absolute best in the world medical diagnosis is available, not just to people who live near the great research hospitals in the world, but via pieces of technology and screens and cameras and labs on the chip and smart phones all around the world. Now that is not a science-fiction vision of the future.  Each of those things we see very clearly right now. For me the question is how do we get there while having most people feel like they’re part of that and that they are contributing to it and they have some sense of dignity and meaning and community, while these bizarre technologies are, not happening to them, but happening around them and happening in their lives and their families.  That’s the vision I would like to articulate.